(I had always wanted to become adept at canning, but had never taken the time).
It all started when… five flats of figs landed on my doorstep. You see, the California Fig Commission contacted me and asked if I would like some figs. Yes please! I never turn down food. I fig-ured they would send me a nice little pint or two. We arranged a time, the delivery man showed and before I knew it: there were five flats of figs nestled against my front door. And in case you didn’t know—fresh figs have a shelf-life of about 2 minutes. I could hardly consume a handful [let alone a box] of them during this small window of ‘just-picked, perfectly plumped prime.’
Really the only thing I could do was: start canning.
And so it began. And my whole kitchen was sticky—with canning gadgets and aprons flying—and fruit flies in full applause. Because there were so many figs, I decided to sample a handful of different recipes and start finding a new favorite. Besides, I had a lot to learn about ratios and pectin and boiling-water-baths. So I made cinnamon jam, roasted grape and balsamic chutney, ‘standard’ instructions-from-the-pectin box fig jam and brandied fig jam. Twice.
There are so many varieties of figs, much to learn about preserving seasonal produce and well, I am loving this current culinary feat. I’m all in. Even if it means an all-day affair where I am wrestling lids, sanitizing every piece of equipment, with feet sticking to the floor and less than perfect results. Its so worth it. (And can I mention: WAY better than store-bought jam).
Because when it was all said and done—and the jars were boiling away—my pride was swelling. I am now a bonafide home canner. And nothing is sweeter than walking through the kitchen an hour later and hearing the ‘plunk’ ‘plunk’ of lids sealing themselves for safe waiting on my pantry shelves. And now I have a favorite fig jam recipe: Brandied Fig Jam—which pairs brilliantly with a smear of goat cheese on the nearest cracker.
Brandied Fig Jam
fills about 6 half pint jars; adopted from Epicurious.
4 pounds ripe fresh figs, roughly chopped (about 9 cups)
4 cups sugar
3/4 cups brandy
1/2 tsp coarse salt
Zest lemons. Combine zest, figs, brandy and salt in heavy large saucepan. Let stand at room temp for an hour; stir occasionally. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce to medium and continue hard simmer to thicken jam, stirring and smooshing as desired 30-45 min. Remove from heat.
Ladle into sterilized, hot glass canning jars to 1/4 inch from top. Wipe rims clean with wet paper towel. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Cool completely. Listen for the musical ‘ping’ of them sealing as you walk through the kitchen.
Note: I made 4 different types of fig jams and chutneys. While they are all good—this one is my favorite. It is SO versatile: the first time I made it with 8 cups Kadota figs and 1 cup Black Mission figs. The second batch I called Mixed Fig Jam because it really was an amalgamation of all the figs I had left: 1 cup Mission, 4 cups Calmyrna and 4 cups Sierra figs.
We were invited to a friends for dinner, and I asked what I should bring. She said: your fig jam, please. And we had it for dessert with really fun nut and raisin crackers and Humbolt Fog [blue] Cheese. OMG good.